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Breed Spotlight: The Poodle

Updated: Mar 22

"A Begging Poodle" c. 1770

The Poodle is believed by most historians to have originated in Germany in the Middle Ages, from a dog similar to today's Standard Poodle. This is the prevailing theory of origin and is supported by the most evidence. It was Germany's water dog, just as England had the English Water Spaniel, France had the Barbet, and Ireland had the Irish Water Spaniel. Numerous works by various German artists from as early as the 17th century depict dogs of obvious Poodle type. Some cynologists believe the Poodle originated in France, where it is known as the "Caniche" and that the breed descends from the Barbet. This view is shared by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI). Others argue that the breed originated in Russia, Piedmont, or even Northwest Africa. Whatever the Poodle's country of origin, both their German and French breed names indicate the modern Poodle's ancestors were widely used by waterfowlers both to retrieve downed waterfowl and to recover lost arrows and bolts that had missed their mark.

Standard Poodle in a German Cut

Size variants

Due to their intelligence, obedient nature, athleticism, and looks poodles were frequently employed in circuses, particularly in France. In French circuses poodles were selectively bred down in size to create what is now known as the miniature poodle, (known as the toy poodle until 1907) as a smaller sized dog is easier to handle and transport in a travelling circus. As circus performers the variety was frequently seen performing all manner of tricks including walking tightropes, acting out comedies and even performing magic and card tricks.

An Apricot Toy Poodle

The Toy Poodle was created at the beginning of the 20th century when breeders again bred Miniature Poodles down in size to create a popular companion dog. Initially, these efforts resulted in disfigured or misshapen pups, as well as pups with behavioral problems, as a result of irresponsible breeding for dwarfed size only. This is an unfortunate impact of for-profit breeding, and its why ethical breeders today don't focus on profit but on health and structure. A good breeder will health test their adults and be proud to show you the proof of their testing, which is a heavy financial commitment. As new breeding practices were adopted, the variety became set as a toy-sized replica of the original. Later attempts to create an even smaller variety, the Teacup Poodle, were unable to overcome serious genetic abnormalities and were abandoned.

A Purebred Standard Poodle in a Teddybear Cut

The last of the Poodle varieties to be recognized was the Moyen (or Medium) Poodle, which is a size in between the Standard and the Miniature Poodle. Not universally recognized by the world's kennel clubs, the Moyen Poodle is recognized by the FCI and most Continental European kennel clubs. One of the reasons for creating this fourth size variety may have been a desire to reduce the number of entries of Poodles by variety at conformation shows. Moyen Poodles are versatile, though, and can perform all the same tasks typical of Standards (conformation, Rally, Coursing, Hunting, etc.).

Nunsoe Duc de la Terrace, 1935

The Poodle was recognized by the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom in 1874, and by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1886, soon after the founding of both clubs. In the United States, poodles were unpopular until 1935, when the Poodle Nunsoe Duc de la Terrace (pictured above) won best in show at Westminster. Afterwards, they rapidly gained prominence, becoming the AKC's most registered breed from 1960 to 1982. Since 1935, Poodles have won best in show at Westminster 10 times, the second-most of any breed. As of 2012, the Poodle was the third-most popular FCI registered breed worldwide, after the Labrador Retriever and German Shepherd, with 118,653 new dogs registered per year from the 25 countries surveyed. This popularity definitely seems to be warranted, due to the breeds highly adaptive nature and being able to fit into most families.

The International Breed Standard states the Standard Poodle stands between 18 and 24 inches, the Moyen Poodle between 14 and 18 inches, the Miniature Poodle between 11 and 14 inches, and the Toy Poodle 9.4 and 11.0 in. The kennel clubs which do not recognize the Moyen Poodle variety typically have the Standard Poodle between 15 and 24 inches and Miniature Poodle between 11 and 15 inches, with the toy variety remaining unchanged.

A healthy adult Standard Poodle typically weighs between 44 and 71 lb, a Medium Poodle between 33 and 42 lb, a Miniature Poodle between 26 and 31 lb and a Toy Poodle between 14 and 17 lb. Feeding a balanced diet, as instructed on the packaging for the dog's ideal weight, can help keep them in good condition. Avoid giving too many treats, as this can lead to obesity.

The Coat

Poodles have thick, curly coats with course fur. A pet owner can anticipate grooming a Poodle every four to eight weeks, unless maintaining for show in which case daily maintenance and weekly trimming may be necessary.

A Corded Standard Poodle

Poodles are often cited as a hypoallergenic dog breed. Their individual hair follicles have an active growth period that is longer than that of many other breeds; combined with the tightly curled coat, which slows the loss of dander and dead hair by trapping it in the curls, an individual Poodle may release less dander and hair into the environment. However, researchers have generally not found a difference in allergens across breeds and the claim of being hypoallergenic or even less allergenic is largely marketing and untrue. This would therefore extend to the for-profit mixes (colloquially known as "Doodles"). Doodles are discussed a bit more in depth in our Breed Spotlight on Golden Retrievers.

The coat can be trimmed into a seemingly never-ending list of variations, from Continental to German Cuts to Teddybear and even Corded. Some cuts require more upkeep than others, but one of the most popular cuts for pets due to its cute appearance and ease of maintenance is the Teddybear cut. All cuts can be applied to any of the Poodle sizes, and many of them will require an experienced grooming professional. Not all groomers can achieve all Poodle cuts, so be sure to ask your potential groomer if they are confident in the specific cut you are wanting to get. It is also vital that you have realistic expectation for what a groomer can do with what you give them. If you are not regularly combing the coat, and reaching the skin when you do it, then a groomer will first have to tackle all of the matts that form against the skin beneath the coat that you can see. This severely limits the type of cut your Poodle will be able to get. Experienced Poodle groomers often seem to work magic with well-maintained Poodle coats, but they can't be expected to perform miracles.

Each type of trim has a unique functionality built into it, even the ones that may seem purely born out of aesthetics. Most cuts that originate from hunting trims will have portions of the puffy coat left on the joints but be shaved close when over muscle, for example. While this make look high fashion (and it is, of course) it is specifically designed to keep the cold water away from certain joints when the Poodle is retrieving downed waterfowl for a hunter while allowing the muscles to come in contact with the cooling water and air. This prevents both hypothermia and hyperthermia and ensures the joints and muscles can function properly when out in the elements.

Yay Sports!

Poodles of all sizes can excel in athletic activities, whether it be Rally or hunting or anything in between. They even love dock diving! This is definitely a breed for the person who wants to take their dog on adventures. Camping, hiking, boating, trekking marshes...the list of activities your Poodle would love to do with you is endless. This means they are not the breed to be left at home by themselves. They thrive with copious amounts of family time, and wilt when left alone for too long - often developing severe behavioral issues such as separation anxiety, destructive habits, or hyperactivity. Whatever you do, especially outdoors, consider doing it with you Poodle!

Fast Facts:

  • The life expectancy of the Poodle varies based on size, as smaller dogs live longer than larger dogs. A study in Japan found the Toy Poodle to have a life expectancy of 12.7 years.

  • Poodles suffer from a number of hereditary diseases. The Poodle Health Registry lists over 50 major health disorders of Standard Poodles.

  • Poodle mixes (Goldendoodles, Labradoodles, Bernedoodles, etc.) have a similar frequency of health issues as purebred poodles (such as Addisons Disease and endocrine disorders) but experience a significantly higher frequency of skin infection. Therefore, a well-bred Poodle is generally healthier than a poodle mix.

Standard Poodle Conformation Show

Miniature Poodle Conformation Show

Toy Poodle Conformation Show



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